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Delicata Squash Mishap

Everyone is familiar with food demonstrators showing off fully prepared foods, but Wegman's tends to rely on food stations throughout the fresh produce section with demonstrators cooking recipes from scratch. A couple of days ago, I sampled a baked mixture of delicata squash, red onions, and fennel. As expected, I was able to eat the rind of the delicata squash in the store's sample. But something went awry in my home version; the squash rinds were rock hard -- definitely not edible. The flavor of the dish was good so I'd like some help.

Picking the squash? Some of the squash had green streaks in the grooves and others had orange streaks. Is there a difference? Should there be some give when feeling the exterior of the squash?

(Doing a bit of research on the internet just now, I read that a delicata squash should not require hacking to cut the raw vegetable. Mine did! In hindsight, that was probably my first clue something was amiss.)

Baking: The recipe called for cooking at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes. The demonstrator warned me against following those directions. He said he thought that temperature resulted in an overcooked result. As a result, I began by cooking the vegetables for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. At that point, I put my salmon in my other oven which meant that I had 18 minutes left of cooking time. I didn't feel that vegetables would be fully caramelized in 18 minutes at the 375 degree temp so I upped the oven temp to 400. The vegetables probably stayed in the oven an additional 20 minutes. When I began serving the vegetables, I realized that the squash rinds were inedible and I scooped the flesh off the rind. The resulting dish was delicious, but I'd like to find out what went wrong.

I used the following ratio of ingredients:
2 parts delicata squash slices (between 1/4- and 1/2-inch wide)
1 part fennel slices (bulb cut into thin slices)
1 part red onion cut into large dice about 3/4" square
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon peach balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

The original Wegman's recipe used 2 tablespoons of a house-brand product called basting oil. The fully baked vegetables were then drizzled with additional pumpkin oil. I used my regular brand of olive oil and one of my many flavored balsamic vinegars. No pumpkin oil. In fact, no final drizzle, just some salt and pepper.

Any thoughts on selecting or cooking delicata squash so the rinds remain edible?

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  1. Interested in this, as I've had some delicata in the pantry for the last few weeks and haven't yet cooked it, nor have I ever. In for answers.

    1. I think
      It was a fluke that you got a bad one. I have never had to choose in any special way. Sorry.

      1. Lower temperature means you need to balance things out with a longer cooking time. Did the demonstrator specify timing? Your experience suggests he was right that 400 is too high. Next time try 350-375 and start checking at 45 minutes. The amount of food on the pan makes a difference too. If his pan was larger, or more crowded, his food would take longer than yours might have.

        1 Reply
        1. re: greygarious

          Unfortunately, the demonstrator didn't offer a ball park time for a lower heat.

          With my ad hoc, two-temp method, the flesh of the squash and the other vegetables was gloriously soft and caramelized, but the rind was a disaster -- brittle and crunchy. The consensus seems to be to simply try again, but cook longer at a lower temp. Will do!

        2. I had no idea people eat the skin of winter squash!

          2 Replies
            1. re: gourmanda

              For true winter squashes, I don't think anyone eats the skin. Delicata, however, is in the same family as summer squash and zuchinni, even though we think of it as a winter variety, so in that context it makes total sense!

            2. Are you positive what you bought was a delicata?? I buy and roast them often and have never had one with a thick skin.
              I usually buy smaller sized ones, and cut in slices approx 1/4" thick, tossed with olive oil or coconut oil and roasted on a sheet pan alone. I roast anything else on a seperate pan since cooking times can be different. I flip the delicata slices about halfway thru roasting, usually takes 30-40min, i prefer the slices with the most browning

              1. I have grown, eaten and cooked many delicata and while I haven't had any that had rock-hard skin, I have had one or two that ended up with skin that that was a bit tough/plastick-y and somewhat unpleasant to eat after baking. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you what caused them. They were so rare that I haven't seen a pattern.

                Orange or green stripes don't seem to make a difference, but the background overall color should be creamy/orangey. If it's greenish, it's probably a bit underripe. It should also be plump and heavy for it size. The skin should not "give" like a zucchini, but it shouldn't feel super hard either. It should feel like the skin of a sugar pie pumpkin.

                It really sounds like you just got a bad one, a dried out one, or one that was misidentified as a delicata. I hope you give them another shot and the next round is better!

                LaureltQ, I've kept delicata around for over a month and they still baked up fine with edible rinds. But I'd encourage you to cook them soon because they are so tasty!

                1 Reply
                1. re: greymalkin

                  Thank you graymalkin! Your post contains invaluable details. The background color of mine was cream but closer to white than to orange. The majority of the squash in the bin had this same background color, but enough of them had an significantly deeper orange background that next time I'll select one of those.

                  There was a sign reading "Delicata" in the bin itself, and all the vegetables within the bin looked the same so I don't think a stray wandered in.

                  This recipe has definitely been a learning experience for me. Thanks again to everyone who generously shared his/her information.

                2. I have had both experiences with delicate....I've bought them when they were so hard to slice into I was afraid for my knife blade, and didn't even bother roasting them. I also have had some that roast up mmm-mmm sweet and tender. I have a couple sitting in my veggie bin right now and I'm hoping they're off the sweet/tender variety! I agree with what someone said above, it's probably a labeling issue - the ones I have now have little stickers on each squash that say "Delicata" so I'm hoping for the best.